Ça a passé proche cette année pour Thomas. Ne manquez surtout pas le vidéo de la fin de course…
« After Olympics my batteries were empty. There was a total emptiness in my head. The legs were still going good, but I had no motivation at all to ride my bike. Maybe that was good. I’ve had this experience before; after a big event with a long build-up you fall in a hole. It did not bother me too much. Only the journalists who wanted to know my expectations for Worlds bothered me.
Once I arrived at the world championship venue in Les Gets, France, that changed in a second. The weather forecast for the weekend was ugly. And it seemed to all come together for me that Sunday. Knowing I had the best equipment possible (I had some special mud collés made with the classic Ritchey Z-Max SC tread) and good form I was going for it. The rain made the course super slippery. Off camber grass descents and roots made the descents very tricky.
After a good start I took the lead after the first descent and was riding solo for almost half of the race. When I had a nice 30-second lead I thought this is going to be my day. But typically, it was going to be a Frischi day. Going good but always some kind of a problem showing up! Because of the sticky mud I got heavy chain suck on one of the descents.
It took me more than 2 minutes to get it fixed, since the bike was so clogged up with mud. I dropped back to 7th. But like on a typically Frischi day I somehow managed to move up towards the end. With one lap to go I was in 5th, 40-seconds behind third place Roel Paulissen. Half a lap to go I was in 4th, but still had the same gap to the bronze medal. On the last long descent I cut that gap in half. Paulissen started to look back and got nervous. One K to go, with one difficult descent left I was only 20 seconds behind him and gave it all. My bike and especially my self-made wheels were the ass in such difficult conditions. 4th place was not an option anymore and I gave it all. Unfortunately I still had 5-seconds with 500 meters to go and it looked like it was impossible to catch him. But Roel was cooked! I launched a last big sprint up the gradually grass climb and caught him right on the second last corner. Somehow I sneaked around him on a turn were it is impossible to pass and won the sprint for bronze. I know how it feels to cross the line in first, but finishing in 3rd felt just as good this time! I think it was probably my best mountain bike race ever. And even with losing the jersey with my chain suck, I’m more than happy with my 14th medal at a World Championships. It’s amazing to still be on the podium at worlds 15 years after my first one in Durango in 1990. The color of the medal does not matter so much anymore.
At the press conference after the race, both French Cederic Ravanell and world champion Julien Absalon said it was an honor for them to be on the podium with their idol. The honor is on my side to hear this from the Olympic champion! »
« My dad walked away to get a beer after he saw me entering the stadium with still a gap of a few seconds to Paulissen. There were so many people at the finish, he was not able to see the final 30-seconds of the race. He did not realized I kicked Roel’s ass until he saw me on the podium 15 minutes after the race! »
Photos: Martin Platter